What is it?
‘SMART-valleys’ is a low-cost, participatory and sustainable approach to develop inland valleys for rice-based systems. Major advantages mentioned by farmers are the increased water retention in their fields, less risk of fertilizer losses due to flooding and increased rice yields.
The SMART-valleys approach follows a step-wise procedure focusing on design, lay-out and construction of low-cost water control infrastructure after a careful selection procedure paying attention to both socio-economic and biophysical factors and making extensive use of farmer knowledge.
The SMART-valleys approach starts with the identification of inland valley sites with potential for rice cultivation. This is done by a technical team working with farmers and village chiefs in the field. The team should be comprised of members that are trained in the SMART-valleys approach, able to comprehend the social and hydrological setting of valleys with potential for rice cropping. Together they put together a dossier containing information about the valley/s to be developed, importance of rice in the surrounding community, potential to grow and market rice, suitability of the soil and water source for rice cropping, land tenure, etc. The dossier allows the technical team to discuss with the communities that want to exploit the valley and those that are downstream that might be affected by the development.
The plan and design of the development is based on this dossier, consultations with technical teams and farmers’ knowledge and experience of water flow and retention on the soil surface. Such a design outlines the water intake, drains and bunds to enable greatly improved water retention in the valley lowlands and drainage of excess water from the valley. It may also include simple structures to divert water from a natural source and provide irrigation to thirsty rice fields when needed.
What is the added advantage?
The SMART-valleys approach allows rice yields to double through improved water control, with only limited additional cost for the producers. Compared to common approaches, which involve expensive topographic studies and high investment costs to construct elaborate water control infrastructure, SMART-valleys are low-cost and more sustainable because they are developed and constructed by the farmers themselves. Moreover, the approach can be implemented within one growing season.
Where has it been tested?
The SMART-valleys approach has been developed by AfricaRice and its national research and development partners in Benin and Togo.
The SMART-valleys approach is being developed by experts from the Africa Rice Center, in collaboration with the Inland Valley Cell of the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries in Benin and the Togolese Institute for Agronomic Research (ITRA).
The SMART-IV project is financed by the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry.
Rice Scalable Technologies are technologies (products or services) that passed the testing and evaluation stages at pilot sites and are ‘ready’ for large scale dissemination.